Theatre facelift is on target, say tourism bosses

The Congress Theatre showing temporary scaffolding and covering erected following fall of concrete from frontage. October 4th 2012 E40123N
The Congress Theatre showing temporary scaffolding and covering erected following fall of concrete from frontage. October 4th 2012 E40123N

Phase one of the ambitious plans for Devonshire Park is underway with an £850,000 scheme to restore the façade of Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre.

As part of the plan to refurbish the Grade II listed building, concrete panels will be replaced and a corrosion prevention system will be embedded into the remaining concrete.

John Broomfield of Broomfield Consultants, a specialist in corrosion and concrete, has been appointed to advise on the project, while Faithful and Gould has been appointed as project manager for the restoration work.

Crucially, English Heritage has confirmed it supports the chosen restoration scheme, one of several options considered by the council, which ensures minimal maintenance and a 60-year life to the façade.

The Congress, which the council says saw record breaking ticket sales in August this year with top shows including Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Cabaret and Mousetrap, will remain open throughout the work. The specialists have already visited the site together with English Heritage to make their initial assessment.

An initial time-frame for the work has been set out: contractors will be appointed by the New Year, the works will take approximately 12 months and completion is expected in January 2015.

Experts found that years of salt erosion was to blame for decay to the Congress, built in 1963. The restoration will also see new windows installed to reduce solar gain and increase thermal insulation.

Leader of the council David Tutt said, “I am delighted that after months of careful planning we remain on course to deliver the first phase of our Devonshire Park masterplan.

“The appointment of the consultants who will deliver the Congress restoration is a major milestone and demonstrates our total commitment to investing in the future of Eastbourne’s historic buildings.

“It has been vital to ensure the Congress restoration scheme will guarantee the façade of this landmark theatre for generations to come while also gaining the approval of English Heritage. This has taken time however, I am thrilled that we have met both these challenges and that work can now begin.”

Members of the council’s Cabinet approved the budget for the Congress restoration in May.